Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder. 


April 2017 Film Sampler

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Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy

Poet Robert Bly stands out even among the celebrated, revolutionary generation of American artists who burst forth in the 1950s; A Thousand Years of Joy charts Bly’s singular path from farmer’s son on a wintry Minnesota farm to radical anti-Vietnam War activist to wild man of the 1990’s men’s movement. The bespectacled, white-haired Bly is every inch the politically and spiritually engaged mystic, seeking each moment’s fervid heart as well as the eternal, intuitive bedrock beneath our cultivated ideologies and “personas.” He was one of the first to translate Pablo Neruda, Rumi and other ecstatic Sufi poets, and his work with Joseph Campbell — exploring the metaphorical, psychological terrain of myth and ritual — led to the unexpected pop culture phenomenon of Iron John. A confounding whirling dervish, Bly’s life embodies the quest for personal honesty and shared truth.

Filmed over four years in five states and two countries, the film features Louise Erdrich, Jeff Gordinier, Donald Hall, Edward Hirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Garrison Keillor, James Lenfestey, Philip Levine, Michael Meade, Mark Rylance, Martin Shaw, Martin Sheen, Gary Snyder, Tracy K. Smith, Gioia Timpanelli, Lewis Hyde, Martin Prechtel, Roger Bonair-Agard, and other luminaries from the world of culture. (Distributor synopsis)


 The Activists: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets

The Activists: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets brings to life the stories of ordinary people who tried to stop and end the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At best, activists had limited influence over the conduct of military policy after 9/11. Yet, their experiences in the antiwar movement helped them to learn about speaking out in the face of injustice. They inspired others to do the same during the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements. Democracy requires more than just one vote every four years - It requires continued pressure by citizens on their government. (Distributor synopsis)


Accidental Courtesy

Musician Daryl Davis has played all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but it's what Daryl does in his free time that sets him apart. In an effort to find out how anyone can "hate me without knowing me," Daryl likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan - something few black men can say. 

In his travels, he's collected robes and other artifacts from friends who have left the Klan, building a collection piece by piece, story by story, and person by person in hopes of eventually opening a "Museum of the Klan," a testimony to what knowledge and respectful, personal communication can accomplish
.

Daryl's journey takes him to across the country, from DC to California, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, from old friends who have left the Klan, to friends still active in the organization, including a current Imperial Wizard of the KKK.
(Distributor synopsis)


How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change

In his new film How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox (Gasland) continues in his deeply personal style, investigating climate change - the greatest threat our world has ever known. Traveling to 12 countries on 6 continents, the film acknowledges that it may be too late to stop some of the worst consequences and asks, what is it that climate change can't destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?

Featuring, among others, Lester Brown, Elle Chou, Van Jones, Elizabeth Kolbert, Michael Mann, Bill McKibben, Tim DeChristopher, Petra Tschakert. (Distributor synopsis)


Gary Numan: Android in La La Land

At the dawn of the '80s, Gary Numan found himself to be one of the world's biggest-selling recording artists - "Cars" and "Are 'Friends' Electric?" were huge hits and no one had heard, or seen, anyone like quite like Gary Numan. But the Asperger's syndrome that helped forge Numan's tunnel-like ambition, informing his music and image, also brought problems. At a time when the public knew little about the condition, the press labeled him a freak. Depression, anxiety, near-bankruptcy and a long period in the wilderness followed. Then Numan fell in love with his biggest fan, Gemma, who helped him rediscover his passion for music. 

Now, the Godfather of electronic pop music has embarked on a one-way trip to California, in search of a new life in the sun and new challenges in Hollywood. (Distributor synopsis)

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